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Youth and Education: Access or Absence

www.unicef.org/india/stories

The comprehensive development of any country mostly depends on the youth of that country. For centuries they have been in a phase of their life where they are more enthusiastic, creative, accountable, energetic, motivated, and ready to take initiative to make changes in society. As they are also considered the agents of change in the society. This leadership quality makes them different from the rest of the population due to their contribution to national development by participating in economic, social, cultural, and political activities. A country like India, where the population of youth is more, should be ready to engage youths in development activities by which the country can be enriched in all these areas and include itself in the list of prosperous nations.

According to World Population Prospects: the 2015 revision Population Database, United Nations Population Division, India has the highest population of the youth (10- 24 year old) in the world, which includes 242 millions of youth. As stated by India’s census 2011, the share of the youth population in India is one-fifth of the total population. The above figures show that despite having more population in some countries such as China, India has better utilization of its larger population as its youth plays an important role in the development of the country. Now it is clearly visible that in the future there will be the possibility where India will become one of the developed nations, if it gives an enabling environment to the population where they can develop holistically regardless of their caste, class, gender, and so on.

To nurture any population, the best source or ladder for holistic development is quality education for youth. These values change the life of any individual, where there is no discrimination against any individual on the basis of gender, caste, class, and so on. Therefore, it plays a very significant role in the life of any individual to build their future. Education doesn’t discriminate against the individuals on the basis of caste, class and therefore, it raises a question as to what is the reason that the representation of these groups is negligible compared to the others. The obvious answer for this is that there are differences in various opportunities enjoyed by those who have privileges and those who don’t. According to the AISHE 2018-19, the gross enrollment ratio in India is 26.3%, whereas the SC and ST representation is 23% and 17.2% respectively in higher education, in which females are 23.3% for SC and 16.5% for ST.

There is a distinction for the opportunity available between these two groups due to the stereotypical sex-role, expectations amongst the parents, teachers, and communities for both the groups, because of which these innocent children are nurtured differently and further they also get influenced by it, and thus they become a part of this stereotypical role. Along with this, social media provides additional support to society to kill the choices and aspirations of children through television programs and advertisements. The AISHE report, 2019 shows the same stereotypical gender roles in the choices of the female and male where the enrollment in the nursing course is mostly occupied by the female, out of 2.81lakh approximately 86.1% are female. In the hotel management course, data represents the opposite trend. The choices made by the youth are the reflection of the society and parents’ pre-decided role for them.

Representation of Marginalized Groups in the educational institution

SC and ST

According to the Census of 2011, The total population of the scheduled tribes was 8.6 percent of the total population. The GER of ST youth 2010-11 is 86.5. The enrollment ratio of ST youth has increased but the dropout rate was still high which consisted of 35.6%, 55% and 70.9% for grades 1-5, 1-8, and 1-10 respectively. The national growth enrollment ratio of higher education is 26.3% whereas the ratio of SC and ST is 23% and 17.2% respectively. The data shows that after years of implementation of various schemes and reservation for the SC and ST, their representation in educational institutions is still low as compared to the forward caste. In the case of management and the technology courses, their presence is negligible as compared to the forward category. In this circumstance, the government school’s pedagogical practices play a significant role for the enlistment of this section of the society, because these sections of the society prefer to go to the government schools due to their economic status.

If the state and central board textbooks do not provide role models for different groups and tend to present them as inferiors, then here the instructor’s efforts are crucial where he/she can use other means and provide role models for different groups. As most of the students come from SC and ST backgrounds and they are first-generation learners. Due to the caste structure present in India, education was inaccessible for them and now when it’s accessible they need representative examples which they can relate with. This pedagogical approach provides them the way to choose a good career.

Women

The enrollment ratio of girls till elementary education increased in the last few decades and in some cases there are more girls as compared to the boys. This is due to a parent’s choice of sending their sons to private schools and daughters to government schools. The national GER for females in higher education is 26.4% but in the case of SC and ST females it is 23.3% and 16.5%respectively which is less than the males. Both, the schools and higher education show a low representation of women due to their engagement in the household chores, taking care of siblings, lack of opportunities available for them, fear of sexual harassment, the conservative perspective of society towards girls, etc. became the reason for their low representation in educational institutions. Jafri study of textbooks present shows that the textbooks used in Pakistan’s schools are gender-biased, where the men are portrayed as a doctor, engineer, carpenter, potter, farmer, postman whereas women are portrayed as the caregivers in the form of mother, sister, and wife. Mostly all textbooks used in the Indian government schools present a similar scenario. The textbook does not include LGBTQ at all. In such situations, from family, society, schools, the choices and the aspirations decided in adolescence reflect upon the choices made by the youth for their future.

LGBTQIA+ 

LGBTQIA+ who are the most vulnerable group of the society, there is no official website for their population and their enrollment in school and higher education. But the writing of Nagarajan R. in 2014 in TOI mentions that the first official counting of transgender in-country is 4.9 lakh. The data of the census also revealed that the percentage of literacy among the transgender community is lower than the national literacy which is 46% and 74% respectively. The obvious answer for their low representation in schools is not accepting these groups instead there are prevalent practices like bullying and harassment with them, which discourages the community from retaining them in schools.

According to the 2009 GLSEN report survey of 7261 middle and high school, nine out of ten LGBTQ students experience harassment in the school environment.  The leaders of the schools and universities play an important role in the inclusive environment but many teachers reported that they do not have the material or tools for inclusive practices in their pedagogy. Another reason to not have more inclusive practices in the pedagogy is fear and lack of support from parents, administration, and heavy workload. The continuous pressure on teachers for maintaining the performance of students also reflects as less attention on the engagement with LGBTQ students. If the school gives this group an environment which is free of bullying and harassment, then this group will be able to perform like others, instead of becoming victim of drugs consumption, depression, and suicide. In this inclusive environment, the gay-straight alliances are a very effective way for more safety for LGBTQ students, where they freely express their feelings and challenges they face due to their gender orientation.

Looking ahead

The recent pandemic also shows that the school and colleges who are serving the vulnerable groups of the society are still closed. The alternative proposed by the authority such as remote and online learning is not working satisfactorily in a country like India where many divisions exist. In the recent alternative, many students are left behind due to a lack of computers, smartphones, TV sets and an internet connection and even due to no electricity. Here again, the opportunity of online learning is enjoyed by the privileged group of society.

The action taken by the central authorities to reduce the academic burden for the students for 9 to 12 grade is also worrying. Many important topics such as secularism, democratic rights, citizenship which are the core values of the democratic country are removed from the syllabus and if such values are not given by the schools, then how do we make sure that in the future they are going to respect the rights and values of others. These all circumstances show that the way to provide quality of education to all groups of society is that those who are privileged irrespective of their caste, class, and gender should recognize their privilege and create a support system to those who are not privileged. Otherwise this gap will be so deep that it will be difficult for both the groups to come out of it. If attention is given to it in due course of time, it will flourish in both the groups. otherwise it will collapse the system. As all the groups of the society have equal importance and they are also serving their part for development.

About the author – MA Education, Azim Premji University

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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